Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Education Specialist (Ed.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Kathy Bradley-Klug, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Julia Ogg, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lisa Witherspoon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.


physical activity, physical fitness, academic achievement


States across the nation are facing pressure to meet standards for high stakes testing which is resulting in a decrease in the amount of time allotted to physical education (Ennis, 2006). Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008) recommends children engage in 60 minutes or more of physical activity a day, on average, children only receive 30 minutes per day of aerobic exercise (Epstein et al., 2001). Despite this decrease in physical activity, research has shown that physical activity is associated with academic achievement (Ardoy et al., 2013). In addition, physical activity is positively related to physical fitness (Rowlands, Eston, & Ingledew, 1999), which has also been shown to have a positive relationship with academic achievement (Castelli, Hillman, Buck, & Erwin, 2007). This study is the first to look at how gender moderates the relationship between physical fitness and reading achievement.

Secondary data analyses were conducted with a total of 74, fifth-grade youth. All participants took the Fitnessgram (Plowman & Meredith, 2013) and Discovery Education (Discovery Education, 2014). The Fitnessgram is a standardized measure of physical fitness and activity levels used in schools. It is comprised of the Pacer (a measure of aerobic fitness), curl-ups, trunklift, flexed arm hang, and backsaver sit-and-reach. Discovery Education is a standardized, criterion-referenced assessment that measures students’ academic achievement in reading. The data were analyzed using regression analyses in order to determine the extent to which physical fitness predicts academic achievement and the extent to which gender moderates this relationship.

No measure of physical fitness (i.e., Pacer, curl-ups, trunklift, flexed arm hang, and backsaver sit-and-reach) significantly predicted academic achievement. In addition, gender did not significantly moderate any of the relationships. However, the small sample size utilized in this study limited the ability to detect an interaction. When all physical fitness components were included as predictors of academic achievement, the model accounted for less than 4% of the variability in academic achievement. The limitations, implications of findings, and directions for future research are discussed.